In re the Matter of: CHARLES P. MCCLENDON, Petitioner/Appellee,
SHERRI L. MCCLENDON, Respondent/Appellant.
from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. FN2006-002783
The Honorable Katherine M. Cooper, Judge
Law Firm, Phoenix By Rita E. DeSoto Co-Counsel for
Skelton & Hochuli, P.L., Phoenix By Eileen Dennis
GilBride (argued) Co-Counsel for Petitioner/Appellee
Romley, P.C., Phoenix By Joe M. Romley Counsel for
Presiding Judge Paul J. McMurdie delivered the opinion of the
Court, in which Judge Peter B. Swann and Judge Patricia A.
Orozco joined. 
Sherri L. McClendon ("Wife") appeals from a
superior court order modifying Charles P. McClendon's
("Husband") spousal maintenance obligation. We
reverse and remand for further proceedings, holding the
superior court is to look at the latest court order in effect
as the "decree respecting maintenance" under
Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") section 25-327
when determining if modification of spousal maintenance is
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In 2007, the parties entered a consent decree dissolving
their 30-year marriage. Under the consent decree, Husband was
to pay Wife spousal maintenance of $5500 per month until
"further agreement of the parties or Court order."
The parties also agreed that upon Husband's retirement
from the Arizona State Retirement System ("ASRS"),
Wife would receive her share of the retirement that accrued
during the marriage.
In February 2014, Husband retired from his position as a city
manager and relocated to California to manage another city
beginning in March 2014. In February 2014, Husband petitioned
to modify the spousal maintenance award because Wife had
started to receive her share of the ASRS benefits, and she
was now engaged in full-time employment. In August 2014, the
parties entered into a binding Rule 69 agreement. Pursuant to
the parties' 2014 agreement, reduced to an order that
same year, Husband's spousal maintenance obligation to
Wife was reduced from $5500 to $4000 per month (the
"2014 Order"). Both the consent decree and 2014
order provided indefinite awards of spousal maintenance.
In 2016, Husband petitioned again to modify his spousal
maintenance obligation. At the evidentiary hearing, Husband
testified that Wife worked full time "a number of years
prior to , " as well as during the period between
2014 and 2016. Wife only worked part-time prior to the
parties' divorce in 2007. After the 2014 Order,
Wife's hourly wage increased by $0.89 per hour, resulting
in a total monthly wage income of $2900. Husband further
testified that Wife started receiving her share of ASRS
benefits in the amount of approximately $3400 per month
before the 2014 Order. Wife's ASRS distribution and
full-time employment was at least part of the basis for the
parties' agreement to modify Husband's spousal
maintenance obligation in 2014. Husband's monthly wages
as a city manager increased from $12, 700 in 2007 to almost
$20, 000 after his employment in California. Husband also
receives $5600 per month in retirement benefits from ASRS.
In its 2016 order, the court concluded the relevant time
during which Husband's request for modification should be
assessed was from the consent decree to present, and not from
the 2014 Order to present. The court made A.R.S. §
25-319 findings and modified the spousal maintenance award
from $4000 per month to $2000 per month. The court further
ordered the decreased payment to terminate in 12 months. This
appeal followed and we have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S.
section 12-2101(A)(1) and (2).
Wife argues the superior court erred by (1) finding a
substantial and continuing change in circumstances sufficient
to modify the 2014 Order; (2) limiting the indeterminate
spousal maintenance award ...